Kay Ford was seen on time despite day of strikes / Teri Pengilley


Some predicted that the doctors' absence would cause "chaos". But despite cancelled appointments and fears that the strike would cause a backlog, most patients questioned by The Independent yesterday said that, if anything, queues and waiting times were shorter.

Doctors had called patients likely to be affected ahead of time, leaving some waiting rooms quieter than usual. "It was really good today, very quick. I knew they were seeing emergency cases only and I thought it would be a longer wait, but it was fine," said one patient hobbling on crutches outside University College Hospital in London after injuring himself playing football.

The man, who did not want to be named, said he thought doctors earned "quite a lot of money" compared with other parts of the public sector, which he said deserved more support. "But they work hard and do a good job," he added.

But Michael Wright, who was picking up a sick family member, pointed out: "Doctors should be paid enough money in the first place, they should not need to go on strike. I wouldn't have thought it was a great deal of money they are after, especially not compared to some people these days."

Kay Ford, 51, said there was not a single person waiting when she arrived yesterday. "They mentioned there was going to be some industrial action going on, I was seen on time; there were no issues, even though my treatment was not an emergency," she said. Ms Ford, from Chingford, added: "I spoke to my GP this morning who said that, if you were going to be affected, you would already have been told your appointment was cancelled.

"The surgery was open as usual and, since I had not heard anything, I came along as normal. The people affected will have stayed at home. That meant that the wards were quiet. The roads were quiet as well, so I am going home early."

She added that she was supportive of the doctors' strike because they were not refusing to see emergency cases. "As long as they do that they have to stand their ground, I have no problem with it," she said, adding: "If they were just walking out, I don't know what we would do.

"But this is their way of telling the Government the way things are."